A walk through the unconventional, cosmopolitan city
Israel describes itself as the Land of Creation. You can’t deny that this is true in view of the country’s long and eventful past. Tel Aviv is a city which is constantly reinventing itself! Come and discover the unconventional and vibrant city in western Israel.
Strong prejudices against Israel and the fear of unrest and conflict are firmly anchored in the minds of many travellers. But this means that they’re missing out on an unforgettable holiday in a flourishing Israel. One city clearly stands out in the country’s transformation – Tel Aviv! The former port town of Jaffa brims with the youthful lightheartedness of its residents. Come and discover this fascinating city in the Middle East with me. A colourful bouquet of endless possibilities is just waiting to be discovered. So, what are you waiting for?
Entry into the country is relatively uncomplicated. You don’t need a visa for a stay of three months or less but your passport must be valid for at least six months from the date of entry into Israel. If you have entry stamps from Arabian countries in your passport, you’ll have to go through stricter security controls. Ben Gurion International Airport is your point of arrival. It is only 20 kilometres away from Tel Aviv. You can fly directly to Tel Aviv from Dublin. You can find cheap flights on Skyscanner.
The best way to get to Tel Aviv from Ben Gurion Airport is by bus. The extensive road network makes this a quick journey. However, if you’re travelling during the Sabbath (Friday afternoon to Saturday evening), I would recommend a Sherut or shared taxi. This is up to 90% cheaper than a regular taxi but you often have to wait until it’s full of travellers before the driver sets off. You can also get to the city centre without a problem by train (although not on the Sabbath). You can also rent a car so you can explore other towns like Bethlehem or Jericho.
Of course, I have to mention the safety aspect as I know some of you are concerned about travel to Israel. There will always be conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians but there is less of a problem in Tel Aviv. The area surrounding the Gaza Strip is particularly threatened with violence so the Foreign Office strongly advises against all travel to this region. You should use your common sense and stick to the safety rules you’d use anywhere else, which is namely to avoid agitated crowds of people and stay away from unsafe areas. If you’ve planned a road trip around Israel, I can also reassure you that Jericho and Bethlehem are considered to be relatively safe. More detailed information can be found on the Foreign Office website. Remember to check it regularly for up-to-date information and safety instructions.
An introduction to Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv is completely different to Haifa or Jerusalem, for example. Although faith is at the forefront in many places, the here and now and enjoying life tend to count more for Tel Aviv’s residents. Their approach to life almost resembles a European one and they’re proud of that. Tel Aviv is a student city and you’ll notice that the young people take most things in their stride. Arrangements are usually changed at least once. Something else important to note is the fact that they don’t want to hide from the unrest in the Gaza Strip but rather want to confront the issue. Burying your head in the sand isn’t an option!
As well as this, Tel Aviv is known for being particularly gay-friendly. Every year, Tel Aviv proudly celebrates Gay Pride. Particularly to thank for this are Tel Aviv’s young residents, who want to break, at least partly, the rigid and deeply religious structures of their ancestors. The Sabbath, however, still is and will always remain holy!
Tel Aviv – a mixed bag!
With so much to choose from I don’t know where to start. Maybe we should start with the basics. What would a holiday be without some sightseeing? The White City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is made up of 4,000 buildings in the city centre. They are characterised by various, interesting architectural styles. They were created by Jewish architects, who were educated in Germany but had to flee that country because of persecution.
The Old Town of Jaffa is a big contrast to this. After the restoration in 1965, the colourful glass windows have been shining in a new light. The windows tell the story of Jaffa’s moving history. The Clock Tower is a good starting point for your tour. You should definitely head for the crowd in Carmel Market. It’s the perfect place to buy all sorts of knickknacks as well as flowers, fruit and pastries. The perfect end to your visit to the Old Town is a walk along the beach to Jaffa’s harbour. You can head for one of the many palm-lined boulevards to relax for a while.
Culinary Highlights in Tel Aviv
Such a tight and active schedule is sure to make you hungry. How amazing then that Tel Aviv is unique in this regard. If you’ve read my report on the best street food cities in the world, you’ll know already what culinary delights await you here. The city is known above all for its vegetarian dishes like falafel (fried chickpea balls), sabich (pita with baked vegetables) and a really delicious hummus (chickpea puree).
You’re sure to find those delights in the already mentioned Carmel Market or down one of the countless winding lanes. If you’d like to try some home cooking, go to the Dizengoff Food Market in the Dizengoff Center on a Thursday afternoon or a Friday. There, you’ll find home-cooked food on sale. You can’t get closer to traditional Israeli cuisine.
Tel Aviv – the city that never sleeps
Tel Aviv’s nightlife is a force to be reckoned with! You can spend the night in different bars and clubs and experience Tel Aviv’s lightheartedness. Keep your eyes open when choosing a club because the best ones are sometimes in unassuming courtyards or in the backrooms of sandwich bars where you’ve eaten before. The beach bars have a special atmosphere to them. Sitting on a deck chair as you bury your feet in the sand, you sip your cocktail while a breeze gently blows through your hair. You’ll hardly be able to hear the sea though because of the lively mood and the music.
I would particularly recommend a night partying in one of the gay bars. This community knows exactly how to celebrate. The most famous of these bars has a drag evening every Tuesday. Good entertainment is guaranteed. Especially during Pride, Tel Aviv changes into a real party town. The bars burst at the seams and even party poopers won’t be able to stop their feet from tapping away to the beat.
Tel Aviv’s beaches aren’t just for partying
After a night of partying, little sleep and brunch with a hangover, there’s nothing better than enjoying a day off at one of Tel Aviv’s beaches. There are 16 of them in and around the city and I’m going to introduce you to four of them now. Hilton Beach is at the foot of the Hilton Hotel. It is particularly popular in the gay community. You can hide from the sun under umbrellas and pavilions or you can take a refreshing dip in the glimmering, blue water. Both women and men enjoy the toned and tanned men on the beach. Dolphinarium Beach and Drummers Beach are both unsuitable for swimming but there you can listen to local music or watch dancers dance the Capoeira.
The windsurfers among you will find ideal conditions for a ride on your surfboards. If you’ve travelled with the whole family to Tel Aviv, Bograshov Beach is the right choice for you. Lifeguards are on duty there all year round. This means your trip to the beach can be a little more carefree. Tzuk Beach and Tel Baruch Beach are also worth a visit. However, they are outside Tel Aviv so you can only get to them by car or shared taxi. Tzuk Beach charges an entry fee but you’re rewarded with amazing facilities.
Be honest – did you expect such variety or such a zest for life in a city like Tel Aviv? Certainly not, I’m sure. Recently, more and more people have discovered Tel Aviv’s beauty for themselves and tourist numbers are steadily rising.
If you want to see this amazing city for yourself, you should include Tel Aviv in your next holiday plans. As a reward, you’ll get to feel the warmth and open-mindedness of the residents and their joy that you want to share your love of Tel Aviv with them.
If you like what you've seen on this page so far, why not check out our shiny new podcast. Holidayguru's Gurucast is our newest way to inspire and interact with you beautiful people. Here you can learn about new and exciting places, pick up some great tips on how to save on your travels and also listen to interviews with some of the world's most influential personalities. Happy listening! :)